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Simelane says centre partner Odendaal is a huge loss for the Lions

Burger Odendaal of the Lions during the United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Emirates Airline Park on March 25 in Johannesburg..
Burger Odendaal of the Lions during the United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Emirates Airline Park on March 25 in Johannesburg..
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

While Lions centre Wandisile Simelane sees the imminent departure of fellow centre and leader Burger Odendaal as a huge loss for the union, he believes it’s also an opportunity for someone else to step up.

Odendaal, 29, is set to play his last game for the franchise when they face the Dragons in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match in Wales on May 21. After that clash Odendaal will join English side Wasps ahead of the new season.

The inside centre has been a colossal figure at the youthful Lions since joining them from the Bulls in 2020. Besides being a senior player, the Bloemfontein-born centre has also captained the young side in the URC.

“It’s going to be a huge loss. Burger’s leadership qualities are huge and just having him in the team is big. He is one of those guys who has a noticeable presence,” Simelane said.

“It will be a big loss for us, but also another opportunity for somebody else to step up and fill his shoes. As much as it is disappointing, we will have to find someone soon and they must step up.”

The Lions made a tough start to the URC. Their fortunes changed in the second half of the competition but unfortunately too late for them to reach the quarterfinals.

Simelane has urged everyone to keep cool heads about their performance for the season as they showed signs of having a better run in the next campaign.

“I think we are on the right track,” Simelane said.

“I don’t think we should overthink things but we should just carry on working hard, go to preseason and work harder and things will fall into place.

“There are some games we lost and it was because of one small error or missed tackle. We are definitely going in the right direction and sooner or later things will start to fall into place and luck will come to our side.”

While local URC teams are on a short break before their final pool matches, Currie Cup fixtures will resume this weekend.

The Lions will host the unbeaten Cheetahs at Ellis Park (7pm) on Friday (7pm), while the Pumas travel to the Sharks for a game that will kick off at 4.45pm. The top-of-the-table Bulls will entertain the Griquas at Loftus Stadium on Saturday (5pm).


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